Paradise revisited or a rock 'n' roll prison camp. It all depends on your point of view.

Twenty-five years after the concert that defined a generation, promoters planning the sequel are both blessed and burdened by the Woodstock mystique.Memories of the 1969 festival have so much cachet that this year's show on a farm two hours north of New York City promises to be the biggest rock event since Live Aid. The music starts at noon on Friday, Aug. 12, and probably won't end until early Monday morning.

The diverse lineup includes the country-folk of Johnny Cash and the angry noise of Nine Inch Nails, with just about everything in between - reggae, rap and Dylan.

But promoters have faced complaints about expensive tickets, a lineup short of star power and limitations on ticketholders.

And in an area that takes its 1960s values seriously, there's endless grumbling that a lust for profits has eroded that undefinable mystique.

"It's almost as if people have this impression that Woodstock was born that morning - on Friday morning - and everything sort of appeared in a field," sighed Michael Lang, partner in Woodstock Ventures, who helped organize both shows.

The Saugerties show is one of several musical tributes to Woodstock in the crowded Catskills Mountain region. But its major competition - a nostalgia concert, featuring several of the original Woodstock performers - has been canceled this week. Promoters hoped to sell 50,000 tickets for the event, planned for the Bethel, N.Y., field where the 1969 festival took place. However, only 1,650 people bought tickets for the show, scheduled Aug. 13 and 14, and the promotors pulled the plug.

An informal group that has been marking the Woodstock anniversary every year with an impromptu party said it will hold a free concert, also in Bethel, which will stretch over a 10-day period.

But Woodstock '94, about an hour away from Bethel on country backroads, is the big event.

Scheduled performers appeal mostly to an early 20s audience, although Woodstock originals Joe Cocker, Santana and Crosby, Stills and Nash will return. Bob Dylan, the voice of the '60s who missed the first Woodstock, is coming to the reunion.

Metallica, Aerosmith and the Red Hot Chili Peppers are all strong sellers, and Green Day may be the country's hottest young act.

Yet Woodstock lacks a huge drawing card. U2 is currently on hiatus. R.E.M. hasn't toured in years. Pearl Jam is locked in a battle with Ticketmaster, the agency selling Woodstock tickets. The Grateful Dead didn't like the first Woodstock and say they're not coming back.

The Rolling Stones are performing in New York City that weekend but have said they're not interested in Woodstock.

"It doesn't look like they booked their talent to reach a particular market," said Ray Ploutz, a 38-year-old music fan from Shokan, N.Y., who doesn't plan to attend Woodstock. "It sort of looks like they tried to appeal to everyone and may wind up appealing to nobody."

The ticket price is $135 - a relative bargain for a three-day show, considering that the Eagles are charging more than $100 for a three-hour performance. Fans wanting to come by car were originally told they must buy tickets in blocks of four and get one parking pass, but they can now purchase two tickets and get a parking pass.

They'll find far more than the muddy field of 1969, with the meticulous plans showing how much the rock 'n' roll business has changed in 25 years.

In addition to two concert stages operating simultaneously, fans can visit a "Surreal Field" filled with interactive games and an "Eco-village" with environmental and political activism booths.

Everything from camping equipment to corn on the cob will be on sale. There also will be automatic teller machines conveniently located for people who run out of money.

Fans are being asked not to bring in their own food, and alcohol is prohibited. They will be allowed to leave the festival grounds only once.

These and other restrictions have angered some people. Many have been venting complaints to Woodstock Online, a computer network for anniversary news, said Lenore Benefield, one of its operators.

One person posted a message comparing Woodstock to a rock 'n' roll prison camp, a complaint echoed by a Woodstock resident.

"People from all over the world will think they're walking into some miracle happening of 1969," said John Godsey, a landscaper from Woodstock. "But what they're walking into is some sort of compound situation - a prison compound."

Godsey has printed and distributed T-shirts that depict a "Woodstock occupied" sign surrounded by barbed wire.

Many fans also are planning to show up without tickets, perhaps recalling how the original Woodstock turned into a free show when the multitudes overwhelmed authorities and stormed the field. Needless to say, promoters have been strongly discouraging the no-ticket plan.

Promoters also appear weary of criticism that they are no longer true to the Woodstock spirit.

"They're looking at this through a '60s mentality," Lang said. "That's fine, but you're living in a 1990s reality. Either you have the show or you don't. You can weigh it down with these perceptions, or you can just enjoy the fact that it's here and not worry so much about having an attitude."